The impact of foreclosure delay on U.S. employment

Kyle F. Herkenhoff, Lee E. Ohanian

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


This paper studies the impact of foreclosure delay on the U.S. labor market. We first document that the average time required to initiate and complete a home foreclosure rose from 9 months prior to the Great Recession to 15 months during the Great Recession and afterward. We also document that many borrowers in foreclosure ultimately exit foreclosure and keep their homes by making up for missed mortgage payments. These two observations leads us to analyze the impact of foreclosure delay as an implicit credit line from a lender to a borrower (mortgagor). We develop a search model in which foreclosure delay provides unemployed mortgagors with additional time to search for high-paying jobs. We find that foreclosure delay decreases the employment rate among mortgagors by about 0.75 percentage points, it doubles the stock of delinquent mortgages, it increases the homeownership rate by 0.3 percentage points, and it also increases job match quality. Severe foreclosure delay, in which the time to foreclose rose to 24 months in Florida and New Jersey, depresses mortgagor employment by up to 1.3 percentage points. We also find that the impact of foreclosure delay on employment is roughly equivalent to a 4–6 month extension of unemployment benefits.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)63-83
Number of pages21
JournalReview of Economic Dynamics
StatePublished - Jan 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We are grateful for comments by the Editor, Vincenzo Quadrini, as well as 3 anonymous referees. We are also grateful for comments by Manuel Amador, Richard Anderson, Michael Boskin, V.V. Chari, Satyajit Chatterjee, John Cochrane, Steve Davis, Peter Diamond, Carlos Garriga, Kris Gerardi, Patrick Kehoe, Juan Sanchez, Sam Schulhofer-Wohl, Robert Shimer, and seminar participants at the Hoover Institution, NBER Summer Institute, IMF Jacques Polak Conference, HULM, and the Federal Reserve Banks of Minneapolis and St. Louis. The views expressed herein are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis or the Federal Reserve System. Herkenhoff is grateful for support from the National Science Foundation (Award No. SES-1824422).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 Elsevier Inc.


  • Business cycles
  • Employment
  • Foreclosure
  • Mortgage default


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